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We are the weirdos, mister: Making horror more inclusive with the Final Girls

Posted Thursday 31 August 2017 by Ellen Reay in Cinema Careers, General

Final girls carrie event

The Final Girls Carrie anniversary prom party screening at ICA (photo credit: Juan Gil)

The Final Girls is a film collective exploring the intersection between horror film and feminism, led by Anna Bogutskaya and Olivia Howe. Anna and Olivia share with us how they are making a new inclusive space for horror cinema fans and how an early morning Whatsapp conversation has taken them all the way to self-distribution.

The origin of The Final Girls couldn’t be less glamorous if we tried making it up. As WhatsApp is our main form of communication, it makes sense then that The Final Girls was born out of a manic 7am chat. We’d bonded over years of marathoning horror films and being really frustrated with some of the horror-themed events going on. We were fans, and hungry to see endless slashers, supernatural spookers and gorefests. Yet it felt like we weren’t 'the right audience' for these events, or made to feel like we were imposters for liking films that were not traditionally associated with a female audience. We love the community aspect of horror, but didn't always feel we could participate in that community.

trouble every day

The Final Girls' Trouble Every Day screening at Prince Charles Cinema

Within the span of minutes of rapidfire chatting, we had the name of the collective (The Final Girls), the film we wanted to play (Trouble Every Day), the date (Friday 13th May) and the general mission statement for what we wanted to do. This last point was important to us: to define what it is that we wanted to achieve outside of putting on a screening: exploring the intersections of horror film and feminism.

Between May 2016 until January 2017, we programmed, produced and hosted ten events including: a rare 35mm screening of Cindy Sherman’s only feature film Office Killer; a shorts screening and panel discussion on ‘the final girl’ trope at Film4 Summer Screen; an all-nighter dedicated to scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis; a preview of Prevenge in Manchester; an anniversary screening of Carrie followed by a panel discussion and a bloody prom party at the ICA. That’s probably still our favourite event (chiefly because it included a specially made yarn blood bucket and we covered the ICA floor in red glitter to simulate Carrie’s prom massacre).

The Final Girls Carrie prom night
The Final Girls Anna (left) and Olivia (right) at their Carrie anniversary prom night at ICA (photo credit: Juan Gil)

We probably did too much during those hectic first months. Aside from the preview of Prevenge, we had focused on repertory programming. We wanted to reclaim and re-contextualise genre films that been maligned or forgotten. We manouvered between arthouse horror like Trouble Every Day and Office Killer to full-blown slasher glory Inside. One of main approaches is to create an event, something that would make it more than a screening. The films were only half the job. We wanted for the audience to take away something from the screening. For Single White Female, we created Hedy/Ally facemask; for Carrie we commissioned a fortieth anniversary poster that we gave away to attendees and got Stephen King’s novel as giveaways from Hodder & Stoughton. From the very first screening, we have created dedicated zines that we give to all attendees. These are the place where we explore the film, explain what it is about it that drew us in, and play around with the film’s imagery, reappropriating and remixing it.

Slumber Party Massacre zine

The Final Girls zine for their double bill screening of The Slumber Party Massacre and The Slumber Party Massacre II at BFI

We’re not going to pretend like all of the events were raving successes.  We’ve had to face the empty cinema as much as every programmer has. However, every single event was a learning curve. We were building up steam for our next, and biggest project (so far): The Love Witch.

Aside from reappraising repertory cinema, our ambition with The Final Girls was always to build a supportive platform for new talent within the genre. With this in mind, our next logical step was to venture into the world of new releases. Before even seeing The Love Witch, we knew it was the film for us. Anna Biller is one of the most unique filmmakers out there today (and certainly one of the most hard-working). The Love Witch is a product of seven years of work from Biller, where she not only served as the director, but she also had a part in the writing, editing, costume design, musical composition and much, much more. A film like this doesn’t come around often and for something so special, we knew it needed championing.

The Love Witch Picturehouse Central

The Love Witch screening at Picturehouse Central

After speaking with Anna, we discovered the title had been picked up for UK distribution by Icon Distribution. Determined to not let this one go, we pitched our ideas to the distributor and reached an agreement. The collaboration with the distributor, Icon, was incredibly important. Without their support, this would not have been possible.

We organised a preview tour of the film, liaising directly with regional venues to pitch our ideas to them. Every single screening had to be an event. We travelled with the film to present it at the venues, and even though Anna was not able to travel for the UK release, we organised Skype Q&As with her, which we hosted. At Sheffield Showroom, we recreated the uber pink afternoon tea scene from the film in their cafe bar, serving scones and cocktails to the attendees of the screening. We created a special version of our usual ‘zines for the tour which doubled as a foldout poster and commissioned an artist (also working under the name Final Girls!) to create a set of tarot card-inspired postcards to promote the tour.

The Love Witch tea party at Sheffield Showroom

The Love Witch tea party at Sheffield Showroom

The Love Witch tour was bookended by two London screenings: the first one, at the Prince Charles Cinema, was sold out weeks in advance; and ended as part of Picturehouses’ Discover Tuesdays strand, which started off in a small screen and kept getting bumped up until we had 300 people in their biggest screen, and welcomed one of the actresses from the film, Laura Waddell, for an introduction. After The Love Witch tour was over, and with the film in cinemas, on Blu-ray/DVD and VOD, the interest in Anna’s work was bigger than ever. As a result, we put on an event in the newly opened The Castle Cinema screening her early short films on her own 16mm prints. We put on the event in partnership with MUBI, an online platform that has been hugely supportive of our mad ideas since the beginning, and at the time were playing Anna’s first feature Viva.

Single White Female masks

The Final Girls, incognito as Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bridget Fonda in Single White Female

And now we’re back at it again. Part of our vision for The Final Girls is championing new voices in genre filmmaking, so for Halloween this year we’ve planned a showcase tour of some of our favourite new horror shorts, all of which are directed by women. We opened a call for submissions in May, received over 1,000 short films from all over the world. From that process, and actively scouring festival programmes and the web for intriguing shorts, have curated a selection of ten short films that we’ve (quite tellingly) named: WE ARE THE WEIRDOS.

This programme is our first venture into self-distributing the work of filmmakers we love. It’s a mission statement, as we’re working to create a space for feminist horror, show the films we’re passionate about, and attempt to eliminate some of the arthouse snobbery around genre cinema.

The Final Girls programme of the most exciting new female voices in genre cinema We Are the Weirdos is coming to cinemas for Halloween. If you would like to screen We Are the Weirdos in your local cinema, get in touch with The Final Girls on hello@thefinalgirls.co.uk. To find out more about the project, click here. 

Film programming needs YOU (and why you should get started)

Posted Thursday 24 August 2017 by Duncan Carson in Cinema Careers, General

Ahead of this September's Scalarama - the annual, month-long celebration of cinema across the UK - our Marketing and Communications Manager Duncan Carson (who got his start programming a Scalarama event five years ago) reflects on why you should get involved. He'll be presenting three British film noirs at The Horse Hospital in London for this year's edition under his programming banner Nobody Ordered Wolves.

If you're alive today and reading this, take solace in two things: despite the astronomical odds, you have known life while Prince was alive and since digital projection was made possible. If I were born not many decades ago, every time I watched a film that moved me, that made me want to take it from my sweaty palms and thrust it into yours, it would have stayed as a frustrated wish. That life-changing experience would stay as a gift offered, that I was unable to reciprocate. But now, things have changed.
hausu haxan
Posters for previously Nobody Ordered Wolves screenings by Charlotte Procter

One of the things that I like most about Scalarama is the number of people who show their first film as a result of the energy around the event (and the great workshops they've put on over the years). I screened my first film in public as a result – a double bill of Hausu and Häxan in a Victorian asylum – and I now work here at the Independent Cinema Office, daily fielding calls from people doing just the same. Behind all of the questions about film licensing and projectors, there’s that same larkiness I had: ‘Surely they’re not going to let me do it?!’

If you have sat in a screening or seen a film you desperately want to watch not coming anywhere near where you live, I want to say to you: there is literally no reason why it couldn’t be you. At the ICO we have tonnes of resources on the how of showing films in public for beginners (and you can always give us a call in the office if you want to talk it through), but here’s my thoughts on the why...  

hausu haxan screening
Hausu and Haxan, shown at the Caroline Gardens Asylum, Peckham

Think clearly about why you want to show films in front of an audience

Cinema is only two things: films and people. Maybe it’s some ineffable magnetism between souls, or perhaps it’s simply that it’s one of the few times when your attention is (hopefully) lured from your phone for five minutes, but being part of an audience is the thing that sets the cinematic experience apart. So think about why you want other people to engage in what you’re doing. Firstly, be aware that passion and enthusiasm are absolutely key. Even when I’ve been frustrated or perplexed by other people’s film choices, there’s an assurance about the best events that makes you wrestle with your response; that says, ‘If they care this much, there must be more to it.’ So find ways to assure people that there’s a reason you’ve gathered them all there, either as the face of the screening or by being an incredible unseen hand.

No one is saying you need to be P.T. Barnum. Some of my favourite programmers are natural introverts. But you should think about the fact that this is an outward thing to do. You need to be able to put energy into finding ways to connect with people, both in advance through marketing and in person at the event. If you just want to see your favourite film on the big screen, consider hiring a cinema for your birthday. Programming is about having an overwhelming belief that other people will connect with what you have gathered them there to watch.

Tin Tabernacle Kilburn
The Tin Tabernacle, Kilburn, a former church turned scout hut-cum-boat, where Nobody Ordered Wolves showed Finis Terrae

Don’t get bogged down in presentation

Look, we all wish we could be showing everything we’re screening from an archival print with a brand new Xenon bulb in Cinerama. Going to the cinema is about presentation. But presentation can mean more than having a spanking 4K DCP. If all that's available to you is a pub back room or a classroom data projector, then that's what you need to do! It’s down to you to demonstrate care in other ways: a handmade zine, elaborate programme notes, pre-show playlist, extended introduction, themed cocktails… Even if your screen isn’t much bigger than most people’s TVs, they will remember this feeling and that’s what counts.

So maybe there’s no 4K DCP of your favourite film. But increasing the number of screenings of certain films improves their visibility and encourages rights holders, distributors and archives to prioritise restoring these titles. Gathering an enthusiastic audience that cares about the films you show (more than the way you project them) is also a fast track for an independent cinema to want to work with you, if that’s the route you want to go. All that said, take time to know your equipment and look closely at what you can do maximise the viewing experience.

blitz
Poster for Nobody Ordered Wolves Blitzed series by Daniella Shrier of Another Gaze

Do something ambitious

There’s no reason to exist if you’re not providing something more than your average cinema. Regular programming is about delivering the current releases; it’s the Gregg’s sandwich of experiences: great when you need it in the middle of the day. Make your event is the ridiculous feast that no one can make day in day out. Delight in the fact that you can spend a disproportionate amount of time on your programming, outside of a commercial need. If you want to spend five years searching for the rights to Point Break, you can do it (and win). If you’re already heading off the beaten track, why not go further? Being niche focuses you and will make your event a beacon for others. Is it about the audience you’re targeting, the films you’re focusing on, or the experience you’re providing beyond the film itself? Do something that no one else can do and then no one can take it away from you.

Duncan Carson programmes under the name Nobody Ordered Wolves. He is bringing three films about British men, masculinity and the 1950s to London’s The Horse Hospital for Scalarama this year. To find out more, click here.

International Young Programmers Unite!

Posted Thursday 10 August 2017 by Ellen Reay in General

Filmhouse Young Programmers 16

When we heard about Centre of the Moving Image's pan-European young programmers network, Moving Cinema, we wanted to know more. Flippanta Kulakiewicz, CMI's Education & Learning Coordinator filled us in on how they involve young people in the cinema and the joys and challenges of cross-cultural collaboration.

“What’s your favourite film?”

This question is one that we get young people to ask each other each year at their first Young Programmers meeting at Filmhouse. Since 2012, we have hosted a group of 15-19 year old film fans who meet on a weekly basis to watch and discuss a range of films. They give feedback on film submissions for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and curate their own programme of shorts which screen at EIFF. They also write about feature films for the festival publications and present public screenings and host Q&As with guests during the festival.

Unsurprisingly, in answer to that initial question, the majority of films listed by our young participants tend to be of the American variety. What is interesting, however, is that if you ask them to list their second or third favourite film, the films either continue to be American or start ranging into quite distant territories – there is always one young person who starts excitedly running through their favourite Japanese and Chinese films. However, it’s often quite a while before European titles start getting added into the mix.

For the past two years our Young Programmers at the Centre for the Moving Image (which incorporates Filmhouse and EIFF) have participated in a project which aims to address this perceived lack of engagement with European cinema. Moving Cinema is a Creative Europe funded project which trains young people to be film programmers and, crucially, aims to reach young audiences and connect them to quality European films. An important element of the project is its focus on cross-cultural collaboration. CMI has worked alongside three other European cinema venues and their own groups of Young Programmers: A Bao a Qu in Barcelona, Meno Avilys in Vilnius and Os Filhos de Lumiere in Lisbon.

Filmhouse Young Programmers

Each venue approached the project with the same goal: to connect their groups of young people and to broaden their knowledge of European cinema. This, however, is easier said than done. How do you connect young people from four different countries with the accompanying complications of languages, interests and (crucially!) timetables? How do four venues, which work very differently from each other, select titles and create a programme of European films? And how do you attract young audiences to your venue to see these films?

There is no clear-cut answer to these questions and one of the most fascinating aspects of the project has been seeing how differently each country approached and engaged with Moving Cinema. One of the most important aspects of the project was recognising and accepting the fact that the groups are very different from each other. Each Young Programmer group has its own distinct identity: the EIFF Young Programmers, for example, are a group of 16 young people, from different social backgrounds and with limited experience of engaging with cinema in any way other than as a form of recreation. This was in marked contrast to the Vilnius group, which consisted of five film students who had a solidly academic approach to watching, analysing and writing about films. However, all the group participants shared a passion for film and willingness to share and recommend their cinematic experiences with each other.

Filmhouse Girlhood

Emilija Morrison and Tom Rowbotham conduct a Q&A with Dr Claire Boyle from the University of Edinburgh after a screening of Girlhood

So how did we connect the young people to each other? We wanted a simple method of communication that didn’t involve the confusion/complication of social media. Although they were unable to meet in person, the groups sent several short videos to each other, where they introduced themselves and talked about films they had watched so far. In the second year of the project a group Skype chat was organised for the first time. This online communication did mean, however, that the groups never experienced a truly direct, personal connection and I hope that in future this is something that might be rectified.

The group coordinators from each venue met in person twice a year to report on their group’s progress and share feedback. It was during these meetings that a shortlist of key European films was created, the idea being that each Young Programmer group would watch a number of the same titles and then host public screenings of their favourite films. We all also passed on film recommendations from our young people to be added to the list.

Creating the shortlist turned out to be a real challenge - each country had their own suggestions and a list of twenty titles soon mushroomed into a nightmarish index of hundreds! When they were eventually whittled down, we discovered that many of the Portuguese, Lithuanian or Spanish films recommended by the other countries were unavailable in the UK in any format whatsoever. An additional number of films on the list were accessible on DVD in the UK but not available to screen theatrically. Of course, we only discovered this after we had watched the films and our young people had chosen to screen them. Top tip: remember to double-check screening availability of films before you start watching them!

Complications notwithstanding, the shortlist was certainly useful in terms of directing the group’s viewing and encouraging our young people to try new films - I doubt our Young Programmers would have chosen to watch quite so many French New Wave titles if left to their own devices! Adapting the programme as we went along to suit their interests was also important. Our group were resistant to the idea of continuously watching lots of old black and white films. Over the two years we experimented with their initial reaction and mixed in more modern films such as Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine, Anton Corbijn’s Control and Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida.

Filmhouse Run Lola Run

Maddy Reay and Oskar Sinicki introduce the Moving Cinema screening of Run Lola Run

In the first year of Moving Cinema, each venue suggested one film to the other groups who hosted a public screening of the film and introduced it to the audience. Filmhouse screened Tom Alfredson’s Let the Right One In (selected by Barcelona) while the Barcelona group decided to show our own recommendation (Control). The public screenings developed further in the second year, with our Young Programmers choosing four European films which were shown at Filmhouse over the first four months of the year.

Attracting young audiences to these screenings was the final big aim of our project. I read the previous ICO blog by Alice Quigley with interest and certainly agree with her point about the importance of pricing tickets to suit young people. Our Creative Europe funding subsidised the public film screenings, allowing us to offer tickets for £5. We saw a notable increase of young people at these screenings as a result.

Filmhouse Mustang

Young Programmers Dan Dickson and Dylan-Starr Adams introduce a screening of Mustang

We also encouraged our Young Programmers to assist in the marketing of these films and their input helped to turn the screenings into special events. Almost all the screenings had local, Edinburgh-based guests attend for a Q&A discussion afterwards, which definitely made them more interesting and appealing to young audiences (see also Alice’s point about adding value to your screenings!)

Moving Cinema has introduced young people to new films and it has been fascinating to see their reactions to cinema that is a part of their cultural heritage, but which they would have little opportunity or desire to seek out. I’d like to think that our group are inspired by the knowledge of other young people in different countries who share their love and enthusiasm for film and are encourage to keep experimenting in their film viewing. Just as importantly, Moving Cinema has encouraged us as a venue to look more thoroughly at our own cinema and festival programme and consider how we can continue to attract and involve young people in our work. 

For more information about Moving Cinema please visit movingcinema.eu

If you want to get involved with youth programming, follow the Young Programmers group on Facebook.

FEDS: Anthony's experience in the world of Artists' Moving Image

Posted Thursday 3 August 2017 by Ellen Reay in FEDS scheme, General

Anthony

This week we caught up with Anthony Gartland, one of this year's FEDS trainees, to see what he's been up to during his traineeship at LUX Artist Moving Image.

I’ve been a trainee in the distribution department of LUX Artist Moving Image for the last four months. LUX is a national public arts agency for the support and promotion of artists working with the moving image. Founded in 2002, it builds on a lineage of its predecessor organisations (The London Filmmakers Co-operative, London Video Arts and The Lux Centre), which stretches back to the 1960s. There’s a really interesting video essay by artist/filmmaker Matthew Noel-Tod that you should watch to find out a little more about LFMC’s history here. These are the sort of things I have been up to, the places I spend most of my time and how it has felt so far.

LUX

A pretty idyllic office...

This is the building where I’m trainee-eeing. As you can probably see, it’s really lovely and because it’s the summer it’s been even lovelier. The building holds LUX’s 6,000 strong film and video collection by over 1,000 artists. It spans from the 1920s to the present day and it’s the largest of its kind in Europe. There’s some photos of the archive below but you can browse the entire collection online here. It’s an active resource and all of these works are bookable - and should be booked, over and over again!

John Smith Gargantuan

Image: courtesy of John Smith and LUX, London

Like this one for example. Gargantuan is a one minute film by British artist-filmmaker John Smith. Commissioned in 1992 by the Arts Council of England and BBC2's The Late Show, the film begins with a closeup of an enormous amphibian. As the film plays out the enormous amphibian becomes progressively smaller. A gentle, lyrical sounding John Smith can be heard describing the shifting scale of the newt; from ‘enormous’ and ‘huge’ to ‘tiny’ and ‘minuscule'. The film ends with an alarm clock buzzing and the word ‘minute’ emblazoned orange on a black title card.

Nine people make up the organisation at the moment; Ben, Maria, Charlotte, Moira, Alice, Lyn, Matt and Bree; and LUX’s main activities are: collection management, care of and access to its film and video collection; distribution: acting as an agent for artists who work with the moving image; public exhibition (screenings, gallery exhibitions, touring shows); education (workshops and talks); publishing (books, DVDs, websites); commissioning new artworks and writing; research support for artists, curators, researchers and students; professional development support for artists and arts professionals; and the development of public research resources to improve understanding of artists film and video.


LUX archive

Most of my daily activity lies within the distribution department and whilst it can sometimes be a lot of lonely work behind your computer, the outputs, and my interest in it, are manifold. I applied to the traineeship because I wanted to learn about film distribution and gain a thorough, in-depth knowledge of the logistical, technical and administrative operations necessary in distributing and exhibiting moving image artworks professionally.

I have been working closely with the distribution manager on a wide range of tasks, everything from corresponding with artists and organisations to facilitate screenings and compiling promotional material for each of the works to submitting recent acquisitions to various international film festivals and creating online subscriptions to LUX’s preview pages for potential programmers and researchers.  I have been assisting the collections manager with the care and maintenance of LUX Collection, including helping cataloguing new acquisitions and updating existing works' entries on the website in consultation with each of the artists.

LUX inside office

In the last four months I have been lucky enough to attend screenings by Malcolm Le Grice, Gill Eatherley and William Raban. There have been screenings by Lynn Loo and Guy Sherwin, Kim Kielhofner, George Clark and Liz Rosenfeld. I have also been fortunate enough to participate in masterclasses led by researchers, artists and curators such as Ghislaine Leung, Herb Shellenberger, Deborah Stratman, and Larry Gottheim. I took part in a three week evening course entitled From Programming to Curating by Dan Kidner that explored the historical, conceptual and critical relationships between film programming for the cinema and screening room, and curating film and video for the gallery. That was really great. I received training from Learning on Screen on the importance of maintaining strong standards in moving image metadata. A little embarrassingly, I hadn’t encountered many of these practitioners (or the discursive avenues they opened up) before starting at LUX. The contact, with the collection, artists, researchers, public and colleagues, is of immense value to me and has positively impacted the way I think about operating in this area.

LUX technology

At the beginning of my placement, LUX launched a week long programme titled REGROUPING. The project looked at the structure and historical trajectory of LUX to self-reflexively question how it could best serve a new generation of artists, researchers and audiences. It aimed to take a moment to think about what kind of organisation was needed in the present and for the future. Entering an environment at this moment of re-evaluation was simultaneously motivating and a little disorientating to navigate. It made a space available for open and frank conversations where everything seemed to be in flux. Although LUX is no longer artist-run those core values are still vital. The press release read, 'We want to ensure that our organisation and ideals remain connected to the visceral emotional, intellectual and material realities of lived experience. To define ourselves less by what we are against and more through the conversations we can make together.'

LUX working

I find myself extraordinarily happy, and at times overly excited, distributing artist moving image from a park everyday. I would like use the remaining months to actively locate the conversations that interest me the most and place myself productively within these. By the end of the traineeship I hope to be able to meaningfully contribute to this field and have the foundations necessary to continue on the trajectory that FEDS has created for me.

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